Groote Kerk, Adderley Street, Cape Town.

The first church services at the Cape were held in a large hall within the Castle and burials took place within its inner courtyard from at least 1666. However the space was soon required for other functions and in 1677, an area suitable for a cemetery was set aside within the Company's gardens. In 1699, it was determined to use part of this site for the erection of a new cruciform plan church and its foundation stone was laid on 28 December 1700. By 1702 the work was nearing completion and its spire, which had been left to the last, was erected in 1703. The church was officially consecrated on 6 January 1704 and acquired its first organ in 1737. This was replaced in 1853, and a vestry was added in 1744-45. The adjoining cemetery is the resting place of many of Cape Town's early burgers including Simon van der Stel (1712), Ryk Tulbagh (1771), and Pieter Baron van Rheede van Oudtshoorn (1773). Restoration work to the church became necessary in 1779, when the four corners of the cruciform plan were filled in, giving the building its subsequent rectangular form. In 1779 the old pulpit was replaced by one designed by Anton Anreith. Unfortunately these extensions were subject to constant water penetration requiring continuous maintenance, and in 1835 the structure was investigated by an experienced builder, Hermann Schutte, who recommended that the roof be replaced. He also drew attention to the presence of extensive water seepage in the foundations. At first the roof was merely propped up, but by the end of August 1835 the church had to be vacated, and its services were transferred to the Lutheran Church in Strand Street. After a bitter public wrangle as to whether the building should be demolished, it was decided to only replace the roof. At this stage it was discovered that the existing foundations would not bear the weight of both higher walls and a new roof. Consequently the entire building, with the exception of its steeple and its vestry, was demolished and replaced by a new structure designed by Schutte. The new building, a peculiar combination of Greek and Gothic styles, was inaugurated on 31 January 1841. It was declared a National Monument under old NMC legislation on 28 September 1962.

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Last updated : 31-May-2012

This article was produced for South African History Online on 14-Jul-2011